Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 32.djvu/240

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228 Southern Historical Society Papers.

broken until the firing of Bryan's Georgia brigade of Kershavv's division. Having formed on the creek bank under cover of dark- ness, at the first sign of dawn it dashed across, overran the Federal picketts, and rushed Crook's surprised men out of their works. Bryan's brigade was commanded by Colonel James P. Simms, and it here performed one of the most daring acts of the war. It was supported by the other brigades of the division. The Federal di- vision at this point was commanded by Colonel Thoburn, who was killed. The report of his successor reads: " The division having been aroused by the firing on the pickett line * * * was quickly formed behind the works. * * * The action here was sharp and brief. * * * But so heavy and impetuous was the enemy's advance that the retreat of the first and third brigades was soon converted into a confused rout. * * I at once hastened to-

wards the headquarters of Colonel Thoburn, commanding division to suggest that he get a line formed by the forces to our rear.

  • * * But before the proposed arrangement could be effected,

the forces on their left were being assailed." Crook's line, with the right resting on the Shenandoah across which Gordon came and attacked his extreme left, or rear, as stated in the quoted report, af- ter the works on the creek, where Kershaw struck, were forced.

By the sheer audacity of his brilliantly conceived and skillfully planned attack, the Confederate commander (General Early) sur- prised and stampeded the 8th Federal Corps, and placed himself on the flank and rear of Sheridan's position. This compelled the quick abandonment by the enemy of their camps and much artil- lery. It has been quite commonly assumed by Confederate writers that the rout embraced the igth Corps, Sheridan's centre. Some even include the 6th Corps. This view is given color by Sheridan's report, which it well suits General Gordon's argument to quote. It is enough to say that it has been bitterly assailed by some of his subordinates, for exaggerating the desperation of the situation when he came on the field, that he might receive the more personal credit for saving the day. His picture of the rout and confusion is shown to be highly discolored by all the other Federal reports. Says General Emory, commander of the igth Corps:

"At early dawn my whole command was under arms, * * * when I heard firing to the left. Guided by the firing I ordered the 2d Brigade to cross the pike to support General Crook. * * * It soon became fiercely engaged. * It was impossible to